When the Timothy Emmanual McField Stadium reopened last week it was more than just the celebration of a fine football pitch being renovated.
It was a testament to TE McField, a great Caymanian academic and community man.
Sports Minister Alden McLaughlin spoke with passion in his tribute to McField who died some years ago but left a great sporting legacy.
McLaughlin said: ‘Today the TE McField Sports Centre has begun to come of age. From its humble beginnings in the late 50s and early 1960s when it was a mere field developed from the swamp, to today boasting a playing field with the latest technology in artificial turf completed to the highest FIFA Two Star standards as well as boasting lighting levels to meet FIFA’s international standards and requirements for filming sporting events.
‘Many of you may not realise that the ground you are standing on is considered hallowed ground when it comes to sports and education in the Cayman Islands. We are standing here today on the shoulders of one of our sporting and education visionaries of the past, Timothy Emmanual McField MBE.’
McLaughlin went on to say that in the 1950s, this site held the Government primary school along with the first public secondary school for the Cayman Islands called the Secondary Modern.
As a teacher and later principal of the school, McField spearheaded the building of the field out of the swamps of George Town in the early 60s.
He marked out the dimensions and supervised, then road builder, Mike Simmons, who completed the field on a Friday night and the very next day a Cayman team played against a visiting team from Jamaica which ended in a draw.
McField had the first public baseball diamond, athletics track, netball and tennis courts there. Many people thought he was crazy for having public tennis courts for the children of Georgetown.
McLaughlin added: ‘Anyone who knew anything about sports was quickly drafted in to volunteer by Teacher McField. He also got volunteers to build him a set of wooden goal posts and made track and field hurdles at the woodwork shop which he started here on this site for the children of Georgetown.
‘He formed along with his band of volunteers the first Cayman Islands Athletics Association in the 1958. Its first members were Clifton Hunter, Norman Ireland, Edlin Merren, Teacher McField and Lenny Hew. This was an umbrella organisation for all sports in the Cayman Islands.’
Retired businessman Lenny Hew arrived in Cayman from Jamaica in 1958, aged 21. Because he has played football and done other sports extensively in Jamaica and Barbados, McField relied heavily on him to help form a sporting infrastructure.
‘Teacher McField was a true educator,’ Hew said who is 72 now and still playing football!
‘He wasn’t just involved in formal education, he loved his people and had a passion to see them progress and saw sport as one avenue. He had a great belief that it could be a great motivator.
‘His interests were to lay the foundation for schools and clubs and he used me as an assistant to help him.’
With the new facility they scheduled a netball season, a track and field season and a football season along with boxing, tennis and baseball. That umbrella association later led to the formation of the Cayman Islands Netball Association, the Cayman Islands Athletics Association and the Cayman Islands Football Association among others.
In those early days it was the students of the school who cut and maintained the field, crushing white lime from the iron shore to mark the lines.
McLaughlin went on to say that the Annex later became the home of football for the Cayman Islands and produced such football heroes from George Town as Frankie Coleman, JC Connor, Cecil Walton, Lloyd ‘Stoka’ Ramoon, Paul McField, Skinny Donalds, Peter Burke, Carl Godet, Gerald Rankine, Bradshaw Watson, Allan Moore, Ned Solomon, Albert Anderson, David Whittaker, Asher Hooker, Little Joe, Sammy Dixon, Renard Moxam, Andy Myles, Lee Ramoon and many more.
Such was the quality of the ground it hosted Brazilian greats like Socrates and Pele, Santos and the Brazil Under-21 national team along with English pro sides Norwich City, Southampton and Crystal Palace as well as many of the champion teams from Jamaica.
Despite being officially considered a part of the school, the playing field was heavily used by the public at large.
This made it impossible to maintain a quality playing surface which became a major concern to the sporting fraternity as well as the parents of children who attended the George Town Primary School.
The George Town Primary school now operates with a number of old buildings and significant number of temporary portable classrooms and is not able to offer to the citizens of George Town a full primary school to grade six because of space limitations.
That’s why McLaughlin, wearing his Minister of Education hat, assigned other fields for the school.
He said: ‘Having decided to move the school it provided the opportunity to improve upon this historic sporting facility.
‘This led to the formulation of a three phase plan of action for its redevelopment. In his regard, I would like to thank the TE McField redevelopment committee: Angela Martins, Jeffrey Webb, Joel Francis, Tommy Ebanks, Architect Sean Evans, Lee Ramoon, Alphonso Wright, Renard Moxam, Daryl Rankine, Albert Anderson and Lucille Seymour.’
McLaughlin added that they were celebrating the completion of phase one which called for the laying of the artificial turf which meets FIFA’s Two Star standard, which qualifies it to host any level of football including World Cup matches.
Future phases include the construction of bathrooms and concessions stands on the Eastern side of the stands along with an entry plaza and a wall of honour paying tribute to Cayman’s sporting heroes of the past.
And to a massive round of applause, he declared: ‘Previously called the TE McField Playing Field, it is my pleasure to rededicate and rename this facility the TE McField Sports Centre in honour of a great Caymanian sports and education visionary and formally declare it open.’